Archbishop fears for former Ateneo de Davao student leader’s fate

“Is the government program of national reconciliation and rebel reintegration all for show?”

This question was raised on Monday by Archbishop-Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, SJ, of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro over the arrest on Nov. 27, 2020 of Alfredo Mapano, a former peace negotiator during peace talks in 2017 betwen the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Duterte administration.

Alfredo Mapano 300x193 - Ex-NDF peace negotiator arrested
Alfredo Mapano. FB Photo

Ledesma, joined by Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Diocese of Cagayan de Oro and Bishop Ligaya San Francisco of the Northwestern Mindanao District of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, in a statement said a composite team from Caraga apprehended Mapano while he was at work in the Phivided Industrial Authority compound on the strength of two warrants of arrest that implicated him in two incidents that took place in 2017 and 2019.

“The timeline of these incidents that took place in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon shows that he was already working in Phividec, Misamis Oriental. It is mind-boggling to think that he could be in these faraway places while working in a government office,” the Ledesma group said.

The group added that the former peace negotiator is now detained at the Philippine National Police station in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur.

Mapano’s arrest, according to the three Church people, “casts doubt on the sincerity of the [call of the Duterte administration] to rebels to lay down their arms and peacefully return to the fold of the law.”

Alfredo Amparo Mapano was a former Ateneo de Davao student leader during martial law, which was declared in 1972, who went underground after he was arrested and tortured while in detention.

He pursued armed struggle for 30 years, was arrested while visiting his family in 2009 and imprisoned for seven years the Misamis Oriental provincial jail while facing several cases.

In 2017, during the peace talks between the government and the NDF whose panel included the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, Mapano was released to take part in the peace negotiations brokered by the Norwegian government and traveled to several European countries for this.

When the negotiations failed, instead of taking the opportunity to return to the hills, the then 65-years-old peace negotiator decided to take the offer of national reconciliation by the Philippine government and surrendered to President Rodrigo Duterte himself in October 2018.

The former Ateneo de Davao student leader was placed in the program for rebel returnees and was provided employment in late 2018 at the Phividec Industrial Authority, a government corporation in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, becoming a corporate social responsibility officer, tasked to deal with informal settlers encroaching over the 3,000-hectare industrial estate that hosts several billions of investments including big corporations like SMB Brewery, power plants and international ports, all vital to the local and national economy.

While finally leading a normal life with his family, he also devoted time and effort working as an active partner in the government program for national reconciliation and rebel returnee as a speaker in different peace and reconciliation fora.

Mapano reached out to many former rebels and their families, facilitated their organization to gain legal personality and helped these groups link with government agencies for the improvement of their economic well-being and welfare through livelihood and technical assistance. On several occasions, he quietly facilitated the return of rebels to the fold and assisted those whose lives and freedom were endangered because they were politically persecuted.

“We view with alarm and concern that Alfredo Mapano, a former peace negotiator and now a rebel-returnee, government employee and active partner of the government program, who took the government’s offer in good faith, has become a victim of the government’s hollow promise…he is once again subjected to political persecution with these latest trumped-up charges filed against him,” the Ledesma group said in the statement.

It added, “Peace cannot be achieved by a purely militaristic solution of jailing people indiscriminately or murdering them, like what happened to other NDF consultants Randy Malayao and Randall Echanis. The sad thing that happened to Alfredo Mapano may lend credence to the claim of the Left about the falsehood of the national reconciliation call of President Rodrigo Duterte.”

The group urged the government to show its “sincerity of giving those who give up violence a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to nation-building, particularly during these days of our observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace from November 26 to Dec. 2, 2020.”

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